Administration Seeks Transparency Ideas

The administration yesterday rolled out the awaited next phase of public consultations for its Open Government Partnership (OGP) action plan. The announcement asked for comments on three specific issues where the administration could make worthwhile gains on transparency.

The United States is scheduled to release its action plan, with concrete commitments to increase transparency, in September. Under OGP, a global initiative launched in July, countries have to solicit public consultation while developing their plans.

To date, the administration has held several invited meetings with open government experts to discuss potential commitments for the U.S. plan. Yesterday's announcement opened the consultation to the broader public. The White House blog post asks for public comment on three topics:

  • How can, one of the primary mechanisms for government transparency and public participation, be made more useful to the public rulemaking process?
  • OMB is beginning the process of reviewing and potentially updating its Federal Web Policy. What policy updates should be included in this revision to make Federal websites more user-friendly and pertinent to the needs of the public?
  • How can we build on the success of Data.Gov and encourage the use of democratized data to build new consumer-oriented products and services?

The post invites the public to email their suggestions to the White House. The post doesn't specify a deadline for comments, but as the U.S. is expected to release its plan in mid-September, sooner will be better for commenting.

The announcement states that the administration will publish additional posts on its OGP plan over the next month, but doesn't detail a schedule or what topics future posts might address. Finally, the post states that the administration will post a summary of the comments it receives.

It's positive that the administration is preparing an OGP action plan and is soliciting feedback on what commitments it should undertake. As we wrote previously, the U.S. action plan "could include innovative and meaningful steps forward," and we're hopeful that it will. The three topics identified so far by the administration are sound places to start and could lead to valuable increases in transparency.

At the same time, it's hard not to feel that the administration is cutting corners on public participation in developing the plan. The OGP roadmap lays out clear standards for public consultation, which the administration still hasn't met. In particular, countries are supposed to detail the consultation's timeline and to publish all the comments it receives, not just a summary. The administration should do so, to bolster the consultation process and to set a strong example for the other countries participating in OGP.

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